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Legal Support Project: helping people to get legal assistance

Pilot project: disability discrimination cases

People who have experienced disability discrimination may find it difficult to take legal action because of a shortage of funding or assistance.

In January 2017, the Equality and Human Rights Commission set out to improve the situation by launching the Legal Support Project.

The pilot scheme provided funding and legal assistance to help individuals who have experienced disability discrimination to pursue their claims and access justice.

The project also helped the Commission to gather information about disability discrimination cases where the Equality Act 2010 had been breached, evidence which may inform our enforcement work in the future.

How many people did we help?

There was a good response to the pilot scheme and the Commission considered 182 matters for funding. We were able to offer assistance in 118 of these cases in areas including employment, education and public services.

From these 118 cases:

  • 90 were approved for the first stage of funding, covering pre-claim work such as advice, evidence preparation and legal research
  • 28 were approved for the second stage of funding, covering preparation for and representation at hearings

In 24 cases funding was not needed, for example, because the case was settled out of court after we had offered help.

In total, we provided £189,000 for legal assistance across 94 cases.

Thanks to the Commission’s funding, Tara Porter will be able to pursue a case against Network Rail on behalf of her son Owen, who is unable to use his local station because it doesn’t have step-free access. Without the funding, Tara wouldn’t have been able to access advice from a barrister.

Due to the success of the pilot project in helping individuals such as Owen, the Commission is repeating the initiative in 2017 looking at discrimination in education.

The evidence we have gathered about the cases has also given us greater insight into the type of discrimination disabled people may experience, and will continue to inform the work we do.

Where we didn’t offer funding

Only 64 cases that we considered did not receive funding. Reasons why we could not help included:

  • the matter did not relate to the Equality Act 2010 or disability discrimination
  • the matter was out of time for legal proceedings
  • the case was settled out of court, so funding was not required
  • not enough evidence was provided to secure funding 
  • representatives were unable to get further information or instructions from the person who requested help
  • alternative funding was found or the request was withdrawn

Last updated: 06 Sep 2017